Archive for May, 2012

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Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 5

May 23, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

Part 5 of this diary officially starts at the beginning of Diablo 3’s Act 2, although I did quickly level up from 18 to 19 by re-running level 3 of the Halls of Agony in Act 1 before taking the cutscene ride to the desert. Between part 4 and 5 of this diary, I completed Act 2 on my standard (not hardcore) Barbarian, so I know what Rollins has to face and where I am most likely to fear the worst. Yes, I’m talking about Belial. In standard mode, it took me two attempts to beat that boss. In hardcore mode, as you know, there is only one attempt, ever.

It didn’t take long to reach the milestone of level 20; there are plenty of large groups to slaughter in the desert and quite a few random side-quests, dungeons and events to find. It’s fairly obvious that a major method of levelling and earning gear/gold for a hardcore character is to thoroughly explore every area, then go back and do it all again.

Thinking about Belial, and how my standard mode character died, I realised several things: First, stay out of the green circles! Second, I need to start replacing my +XP gear with pieces that have a high vitality stat, preferably also a decent life regeneration stat and, optionally, some strength. Gem slots, yes, of course, are very good too. I also need to ditch dual-wielding and use the best shield I can find (on the auction house). Skills are becoming more important too; I’m setting Rollins up with the ones that keep him alive rather than do damage to enemies, although sometimes there’s a bit of an overlap. Revenge, Nerves of Steel, Ignore Pain, Threatening Shout, etc. Pretty much anything that boosts vitality, replenishes life or reduces enemy effectiveness. Learning when to use each skill, that’s a good idea too!

So far, elites and champions aren’t giving me any trouble. I expect this to drastically change in higher difficulty levels, but there’s still a long way to go in ‘Normal’ before I need to worry about that.

The only subquest/event that I avoided was the one in a timed dungeon. I did it in standard mode and completed it successfully, but I don’t like the idea of sending Rollins in there, getting lost or otherwise delayed and then dying because the timer ran out. Also, the last thing you want in HC mode is to be playing against a timer, rushing things and potentially making a fatal mistake.

Maghda is an early Act 2 boss fight. No problems with her, and not much else needed killing before I reached level 22.

I’ll be taking my time through Act 2, re-running whole zones to get as much of a level & skill advantage as possible before taking on Belial. For now, this is what Rollins is looking like at level 22. In part 6 of this diary he will hopefully be beyond level 25 with gear more appropriate for the end-of-act showdown.

One final observation, probably not very surprising – the cost of gems on the Hardcore auction house appears to be over 10x the prices on the standard mode AH.

See you in part 6…

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 4]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 6]

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Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 4

May 21, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

Since part 3 (posted earlier today), Hardcore Barbarian ‘Rollins’ has risen from level 15 to 18, defeated The Butcher and is all set to move into Act 2. Polite, possibly slightly ironic applause much appreciated at this point. Rewinding to level 15, this is what happened first…

I went back and rushed through the quest immediately before the start of the Halls of Agony zones; this involved killing the Spider Queen (again), finding the Staff of Kha-something (come on, do you think I read the quest notes?) and fighting my way to Leoric’s castle/mansion/whatever.This got Rollins to…

… level 16, as well as gaining a fair amount of gold and items to sell. It’s worth pointing out that although I’m retracing Rollins’ steps in addition to repeating what my non-hardcore Barbarian has recently done, none of this feels dull or overly repetitious. I admit that not everyone would find the experience the same, but then I don’t expect everyone enjoys this kind of hack-fest RPG either.

So much for Tyrant Skullcrusher. Despite the impressive death-metal bass player name, he lasted about 3 seconds. The only close call Rollins has had so far, and it really wasn’t that close, was being butted around like a tennis ball by a group of elite bull creatures who all had the knockback ability. What did I do? I ran away, of course, and picked them off one at a time. And so, into the Halls of Agony and the short stroll to the lair of The Butcher.

Thanks to my +XP gear and quite a few helpful experience shrines in the halls, it didn’t take long to reach level 17. Here’s a nice shot of Rollins and his pet Templar crossing the bridge before the entrance to the final zone before The Butcher.

See, I still take the time to admire the scenery even in hardcore mode. Here’s a short interlude to show you my auction history.

That’s the stuff that Rollins has been buying and selling on the way to level 18. As I mentioned in an earlier post (part 1, I think), I am not doing this kind of auction house overkill on my standard Barbarian character – this is pure HC paranoia fuelled repetitive gear tweaking. And so we come to level 18 and the big fight, which wasn’t particularly big.

The Butcher. He’s not so tough…

And here’s the achievement notification for beating him in hardcore mode.

There will now be a short break in hardcore progress reports, while I get through Act 2 on my standard mode Barbarian, as a kind of rehearsal for the hardcore run through it immediately after. With optimism levels this high, it’s sure to come to a disastrous and sudden end, right?

Level 18

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 3]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 5]

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Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 3

May 21, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

As I predicted yesterday, Rollins has reached the start of the Imprisoned Angel quest which means that some time today (if there aren’t any connection issues) he will be facing The Butcher and reaching the end of Act 1.

I completed the Last Stand of the Ancients event and had a fairly easy time of it in the Drowned Temple. I’m going to stick with the Templar sidekick character, for now anyway, because I like his heal abilities and unintentionally funny comments.

While I’m playing this character I’m constantly aware that every completed quest, every level-up, is just taking me closer and closer to that rather inevitable Game Over message. It’s an odd way to play an RPG, knowing that a lack of concentration or even a lag spike could shut Rollins down for good. It does make it all far more immediate; I’m not storing anything, I either sell my old gear to the NPC merchant or put it back on the auction house. I’m not even trying to make a lot of money off old gear, just enough to keep constantly replacing my equipped items with better ones.

This is the sort of thing you can pick up on the auction house. Keep those prices low, HC players!

My first socketed item in HC mode

Aggressive use of +XP items and some tactical quest repetition is keeping Rollins slightly ahead of the levelling curve. I’m considering repeating the whole Trail of the Coven section for the xp and gold, before starting the Imprisoned Angel quests. I don’t need to do it, but an unhealthy mixture of paranoia and gear-greed is encouraging me to face The Butcher in the most hard-to-kill state I can get to.

This fight wasn’t even close. I used a health potion but I would have been fine without it. In HC mode, “being fine” is what happens just before you die.

Here it is, level 15. Only 5 more to go for the next achievement. Yeah, keep telling yourself it’s “only 5 more to go”!

One final look at Rollins at level 15 on the hero select screen. I love that new helmet, very Crusaders, although I don’t think it matches the fluffy shoulder pieces.

Tomorrow, or maybe later today, part 4 should have a rousing celebration of Rollins’ completion of Act 1. Unless, of course, it all goes horribly wrong. Stay tuned…

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 2]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 4]

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Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 2

May 20, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

Welcome to part 2 of the Diablo 3 hardcore diary and I’m pleased to say that Rollins is still alive. I’ve now got the level 10 hardcore achievement, which is hardly surprising considering the relatively low difficulty of the first Act and Rollins’ rather extreme amount of rare (yellow) gear.

No major quest milestones reached since the Skeleton King, although I did complete a couple of minor random special events, one in the Defiled Crypt and another while wandering the Fields of Misery.

I’d already done the Defiled Crypt event on my standard mode Barbarian, so I knew what to expect. I hadn’t done the Carrion Farm before, but I didn’t anticipate any problems and, sure enough, there weren’t any.

The final things I did with Rollins last night was get him to level 11 and buy a few new items on the auction house. Tonight I’ll be equipping those items and attempting to get through as much of the remainder of Act 1 as I can manage, probably up to the start of the zone that contains Act 1’s final boss, The Butcher. I’ve already passed him in standard mode, so I know what to expect and what to avoid, which is mostly the fire coming up through the floor.

In part 3 of this diary, I’ll post some screens that show some of my gear. For now, to close this episode, here’s a nice zoomed in shot of Rollins casually insulting Maghda during the first part of the Sword Shard quests.


[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 1]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 3]

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Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 1

May 19, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

Despite a memorable lesson learned in Diablo 2 where I lost a hardcore Barbarian half way through Act III and spent a long time staring in disbelief at the screen, I’ve started a hardcore Barbarian in Diablo 3.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a hardcore character in Diablo 3, what it means is that you play the game with one life; when you die, that’s it. As explained in this warning that appears when you choose to create a hardcore character:

The game is the same as if played in standard mode, apart from the permanent death issue. You also can’t share items with your own standard mode characters, or team up with other players’ standard mode characters. The auction house is separate, so everything on there is being bought and sold by hardcore characters.

I’m playing it as cautiously as I can. I’m forging ahead on my standard mode Barbarian, finding the times and places where death is most likely to occur and experimenting with skills and gear. Rollins, my hardcore Barbarian, is doing the kind of things that would potentially spoil the game under normal circumstances, things I wouldn’t bother doing in standard mode:

- Repeating (grinding) areas and quests where there is low risk and a fair bit of reward, whether that be gold/gear or xp points. One early quest that is great for a fast repeat cycle is the one where you accompany the blacksmith and end up killing (or watching him kill) his undead wife. Multiple zombie kills, a fair amount of gear from the wife and quest completion xp every time you do it, and the whole thing takes less than a couple of minutes.

- Completely abusing the auction house. Rollins is selling pretty much everything he finds to the NPC merchants and using the gold to buy the best rare (yellow) items that he can afford on the AH. This is arguably overkill through most of Act 1, but it reduces the stress to a manageable level, for me anyway!

In the above screenshot, I have equipped a unique sword called Griswold’s Worn Edge. a lucky random find at Griswold’s destroyed smithy in Old Tristram that turned up in one of many repeat visits to that early location.

At the time of writing this, Rollins is not far from level 10 and the first levelling related achievement for hardcore characters. The Skeleton King has already fallen and, if all goes well, the next entry in this D3 Hardcore Diary will be celebrating that level 10 achievement and probably a few stories in the vein of ‘what happened next’. Either that or there will be a nice screenshot of Rollins’ untimely demise.

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary - Go to Part 2]

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Angry Planes HD review (iPad)

May 18, 2012

“Bombers fight at zero feet, bombers fight at zero”

10 word description: ‘City Bomber’ type game, with squid. 90 levels; 3-star ratings.

10 word review: Insubstantial gameplay falls slightly short of the initially entertaining premise.

You will like this if you enjoy: ‘City Bomber’ type games. Jungle Crash Land, although that’s a different and arguably rather more entertaining game.

The good news: Attractive graphics, decent controls, plenty of levels, smooth difficulty curve, challenging 3-star ratings.

The bad news: Big missed opportunity alert: There are 6 playable planes available right from the start. Yes, the differences are only cosmetic, but it would have been much better if these had been unlocked via game progress or by some kind of in-game points system (not IAPs!) to increase the addiction/replay value. Shame. My main gripe, which could indeed be down to personal opinion, is that the bombing doesn’t feel significant or kinetic enough; the bombs don’t splash into the water, the visual explosions are weak, almost unnoticeable, and there are no sound effects for them. The bomb-dropping sound is like someone gently flicking a piece of paper. For a game about bombing, some extra effort should have been put into making the bombing a lot more impressive. And, of course, there’s the word ‘Angry’ in the title – don’t be naïve, this will probably either deter or mislead potential customers.

Arcadelife verdict: The core game is sound enough and there are plenty of planes and levels. Some more thought should have been put into how the 6 planes are acquired. A lot more thought should have been applied to the look and sound of the bombs and how they interact with the other game elements.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 7/10
Audio – 2/10
Controls – 8/10
Content – 7.5/10
Fun – 6/10
Final rating – 61/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

Angry Planes website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
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Diablo 3 (PC) – not quite a review yet

May 15, 2012

All screenshots are taken from my PC at 1600×1200. Click any picture to view the full size image

Like the title says, it’s not quite a review yet as I’ve played for less than 2 hours on one character type, the Barbarian, reaching level 9 so far.

Of course I choose a female barbarian, although you have to like ‘em a bit chubby in Diablo 3

In the box, I got the Windows/Mac versions on a single dvd, a game manual (didn’t read it), two guest passes for Diablo 3 and a guest pass for World of Warcraft. Here’s a really bad photo I took in a hurry with my iPod Touch just before I installed the game:

The installation process isn’t too arduous, less so if you already have a battle.net account set up. They’ve got an additional level of security available now with an authenticator system. There’s a very easy to use iPhone/iPod app that I chose to use; I recommend this if you’re paranoid (like me) or just sensible.

Once you’ve picked your character class and named your character it’s only a short cut-scene before you’re knee-deep in the undead. I have to say, combat is very easy at the start of the game; I only used one potion between levels 1 and 9, and that was probably unnecessary. I’ve read/heard that it gets harder later on, but the initial chapter is definitely stress-free to put it mildly.

Manglemaw – he’s nowhere near as tough as he looks

Playing as a Barbarian, which is almost exclusively melee combat, the sensation of delivering heavy, powerful blows is conveyed exceptionally well. The combination of visual effects and deep, thundering sound effects is just brilliant. It’s hard to think of a game where the feel of the fighting has been rendered quite this effectively.

Levelling up and looting gear are two of the main driving forces behind the addictive playability of this game. Loot gathering and crafting (which turns up fairly early on) are great fun, with crafting giving you something else to do with your unwanted magic items besides selling them to the NPC traders. I’ll talk about the auction house in another post, probably in the review when I get around to writing it.

Killing a whole bunch of enemies in one go isn’t just immensely satisfying, it will also give you some bonus xp points, as shown in the screenshot above.

At regular level-up intervals, you unlock new skills and/or runes that power-up existing skills. For the Barbarian, skills generally consume Fury which is built up by taking or dealing damage.

Right now, I think it’s time I got back into the game and brought this non-review post to a close. Was Diablo 3 worth the wait and all the phantom release dates? Yeah, probably.

That’s not a chubby jogger, that’s my Barbarian!

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